“Transition” Healthcare Responsibilities
“Transition” Health Care Responsibilities
As parents, we spend much of our time helping our children prepare for adulthood. We teach them how to walk and eat, how to read and write and speak, to do their own laundry, cook and clean, and how to drive a car, but do we prepare them for taking responsibility for their health care?
“Transition” is a term that can have many meanings, especially in the life of a child who is constantly growing and changing. In the health care field, though, it often refers to the time when a child stops receiving pediatric health care and instead begins to get care from an adult health care provider. It is the health care equivalent of graduating from high school — the time when you go from being a child to an adult or graduating from pediatric to adult health care.
But it’s not just that children should choose to prepare for their move into adult health. Legally, when teens turn 18 years old, they are adults and are then the ones in charge of their own health care decisions, so it’s important to help them be ready for this new responsibility.
This transition stage is important for any child, but is especially critical for children with special health care needs who often have more to be in charge of when it comes to their personal health care. The chronic health conditions that many children with special health care needs experience can lead to greater demands on the individual, including special medications, treatments, or diets. Children with special health care needs should have knowledge about their unique health profile, including:
- Understanding their individual health condition
- Knowing the signs and symptoms of when they need medical attention
- Knowing the medications they take, why they take them and what they do
- Managing their self-care needs
- Making good, healthy decisions about their life style
- Talking to doctors by themselves, asking questions, and following-up on instructions
- Making their own doctor appointments and filling prescriptions
- Choosing physicians who treat adults
It’s never too early to start helping your child prepare for this important stage. By age 12, parents should begin talking to their children about their life goals and planning out ways to make those goals a reality. This is also a good time to encourage them to take a more active role in their health decisions. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Talk to your child about health care in general – what it is, why it’s important
- With your child, write an up-to-date medical history. Include conditions, procedures, therapies, medications and treatments (with dates, doctors and recommendations)
- Have your child write a list of questions to ask at your next doctor appointment
- Post a chart of which medications your child takes and when to help share the responsibility of medications
- Include your child in decisions about healthy eating and exercise to teach healthy behaviors